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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Xero Shoes DayLite Hikers > Test Report by Kurt Papke

XeroShoes DayLite Hiker

Test Report by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - October 19, 2017

Field Report - January 2, 2017

Long Term Report - March 6, 2018

Tester Biographical Information

Name
Kurt Papke
Age
64
Gender
Male
Height
6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight
225 lbs (102 kg)
Email address
kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country Oro Valley, Arizona USA

I do most of my hiking in the desert Southwest, but occasionally get up into the Pacific Northwest and my old stomping grounds in Northern Minnesota.  I am a comfort-weight guy when it comes to most gear, trying to stay as light as possible but I don't go to extremes.  With footwear, however, I'm a real minimalist - I run in Vibram Five Fingers and often hike in barefoot-style sandals.  It took me several years to toughen up my feet to do this, but it has been well worth it.

Initial Report

Product Information

Xero is known primarily for their "Huarache" style sandals, but the DayLite Hikers seem to be a trend in their product offerings towards more foot protection and style.

Product Information
Manufacturer
Xero Shoes
Manufacturer website
https://xeroshoes.com
Year Manufactured
2017
Size tested/used
13 men's
Available in sizes Medium 6.5-13
Color tested/used
Black/yellow.  Also available in Black and Mesquite (brown)
MSRP
USD $109.99

Listed
Measured
Weight (one shoe)
10.2 oz (289 g) for size 9
 13.1 oz (371 g) for size 13

Note in the above table the substantial difference between listed and measured weights.  This is due to the size of the boot.

Features listed by the manufacturer include:
  • Wide toebox and zero-drop heel
  • Highly flexible and thin (6mm or 0.24 in) soles with "dual-chevron tread" to grip the trail
  • Light weight
  • 5,000 mile (8050 km) sole warranty
  • Water-resistant ballistic mesh upper
  • Toe bumper
  • Huarache-inspired heel strap to hold the foot securely
  • Adjustable instep straps
  • Removable sockliner/insole
  • Vegan friendly materials (not sure what this means)
xd01

The toe protection can be seen in the above photos.  It is fairly thick, but not very rigid and should prevent "soft" toe stubs on trail rocks and roots, but won't help much if a rock is kicked with much force.  As the photo at left illustrates, these shoes are VERY flexible at the forefoot, which is where it is most needed.

The yellow stripes on the laces are very visible in low light and will aid lace repair and re-lacing in the dark.

Laces: there are six courses of laces on this boot (see upper-right photo above).  From the bottom, the first third and fifth are attached with straps to the outside of the tongue area.  The second is attached to the middle of a strap sewn to the outside of the sole in two places.  The fifth is attached to a strap that also goes down to the sole, but then loops up to the top of the heel back.  The final course is looped through metal lugs.  The net effect of all this seems to be an attempt to distribute the pressure on the foot upper very similar to a sandal.

The lower-right photo above shows the details of the sole.  The design of the lugs is quite similar to that used on their Huarache sandals.  This is not very aggressive tread - hopefully I won't do too much slipping and sliding on the rocky Arizona trails.

Initial Use

I put on some midweight merino wool hiking socks, put the shoes on and walked around the house.  Observations:
  • The boots pulled on easily with the integrated pull strap.
  • The laces tightened nicely.  My feet felt snug.  The laces themselves are very large in diameter making it comfortable on the hands when tightening.
  • Fit: in the past I have tried to purchase size 12 footwear.  Since the Xero boots are available only in whole sizes I rounded up to size 13.  They feel a little roomy, but my feet swell substantially when backpacking and with thick socks I am not expecting issues.  I didn't notice any forward sliding in the boot on downhills.  The width was snug, but I didn't detect any pinching.
  • Sole flex is excellent.  These boots flex at the ball of the foot almost as much as my trail runners.
  • The gray color goes nicely with any color of clothing, and the yellow accents really stand out.
  • There is no cushion in the boot.  My feet were not sore after the hike, but I could tell when I was walking on gravel with small rocks.
  • I could tell I was wearing lightweight boots -- my feet felt very light while walking.
  • Good cushioning in the ankles -- they felt very protected.

Summary

So far I am impressed with these boots.  They seem to be a good compromise between foot protection, keeping stuff out of the shoes, and going lightweight.  I am excited about getting them out into the backcountry.

Likes:
  1. Lightweight
  2. My feet feel well-ventilated
  3. Lacing works well
  4. I like the judicious use of bright yellow for components I may need to find in the dark: pull-on strap, and the lace straps and holes.
Areas for concern:
  1. Not very aggressive tread/lugs.  Hopefully no slips on downhills.

Field Report

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Altitude
Weather
Total Pack weight with Food and Water (approximate)
November 10-13, 2017
Gila Wilderness, New Mexico
West/Middle Fork Loop
43 miles
(69 km)
5630-7450 ft
(1716-2271 m)
Sunny and unseasonably warm, highs around 70F (21 C), nightly lows to 25F (-4 C)
35 lbs
(16 kg)
Various
Tucson, Arizona
Local dayhikes
5-9 miles
(8-14 km)

Various
Sunny and unseasonably warm N/A
December 10-13, 2017 Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Hermit and Tonto
27 miles
(43 km)
2800-6640 ft
(850-2024 m)
Highs around 60 F (15 C), lows near 25 F (-4 C), sunny with light wind 40 lbs
(18 kg)

West/Middle Fork Loop

Four-day hike up the West Fork of the Gila, over the mountains and down the other side, then back up the Middle Fork to Little Bear Canyon where I crossed back to my starting point. This is probably the worst possible test conditions for footwear: the shoes are brand new (I didn't break them in), periodic stream crossings keeping shoes and socks soaking wet, and a sandy/gritty environment.  My pack weight was fairly modest, as I carried a lightweight hammock and only 1 L (1 qt) of water.

xd02The DayLite Hikers went on easily and laced up with no issues.  I wore midweight merino wool socks inside the shoes, socks that I have worn for many years without any issues.  I set off on my first (short, i.e. started at 1:30pm) day full of enthusiasm.  The first couple of miles (few kilometers) were nice and dry.  Then the Gila River crossings began and continued incessantly for the rest of the afternoon.  See photo at left for the last moments of the shoes before they got wet.  That was the very first of about 20 stream crossings that day.

Traction in the stream crossings was a little sketchy.  The fist-sized rocks that make up the stream bottoms were quite slippery, and the DayLite Hiker soles did not grab the rocks at all.  The good news is I managed to not fall and get wet or hurt!

When I made camp that night I noticed a little hotspot on the tips of the toes of my right foot, but didn't think anything of it.  I hung the shoes and socks out on a tree limb overnight to dry after removing the insoles from for better ventilation.

In the morning the shoes were still quite wet, despite the dry weather.  I decided to do the rest of my river walking that morning in sandals (Xero Amuri Venture) that I had brought for camp shoes in an attempt to get the DayHikers to dry out overnight.  About 1PM I hit Hells Hole canyon and dry ground, had lunch, and switched back into the DayHikers.  I hiked until about 5PM and called it a day.  The toes on my right foot were throbbing, so I thought I better have a look.  Horrors!  A large blood-filled blister on the tip of the third toe and smaller blister on the fourth toe, both extended underneath the toenail.  It has been many years since I had blisters this bad.  I got out my knife and lanced both of them so they could dry and heal overnight.

Both toes were pretty sore in the morning, and I had a big descent to do first thing, so thought it best to keep pressure off the toes and wore my sandals.  In fact, the DayLight Hikers remained strapped to my pack for the rest of the trip.

I did not include a photo of my toes in my report, as they looked pretty gross.  I think I'm going to lose the nail on the third toe (I did).  The shoes are plenty big enough, they are a full size larger than my feet.  I think the issue is I have wide toe splay, and the shape of the DayHiker toe box doesn't match my toe lengths very well.  The toe box is also not very high, and I think my (freshly-trimmed) toenails were rubbing against the top of the toe box.

After my feet heal I'll try wearing the shoes again, but this time with thinner socks and no insole to give my toes as much room as they can get.

Not a very auspicious beginning!

Local Dayhikes

xd03My first shoe use after the Gila was a dayhike up Wasson Peak.  I removed the insoles and wore lightweight Merino toe socks (Injinji).  Success!  No toe damage.  Like the Gila hike, this trail is very rocky so my feet were pretty tired when I was done, so it was a good test.

Next up was a 5 mile (8 km) training dayhike up Romero Canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, AZ.  No insole again, this time with low-cut Injinji socks (see photo at left).  My ankles rubbed a bit with the short socks; these shoes don't strike me as being usable sockless.  This is also a rocky trail that gains/loses altitude quite quickly, so its a good test of the DayLite Hiker traction, and they performed flawlessly.

A few days later I did 7 miles (11 km) on the Pima Canyon Trail, again in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  I used Coolmax liner socks that came up over the top of the shoes. I figured the thin socks would give me plenty of space, and they did.  The only issue I had was the socks looked pretty dirty after a 4 hour hike, though it is a very dusty trail.  Seems like a fair amount of dirt can make its way into the shoes.

Grand Canyon's Hermit/Tonto

xd04Four-day, three night backpack in the western portion of the Grand Canyon.  Winds were light, but temperatures dropped to freezing and below as soon as the sun set every night.  The terrain was a mix of rocks, gravel and dirt.  I wore Injinji toe socks every day, a pair of thin synthetics, or a pair made of thicker merino wool depending on temperatures.  My pack weight was a bit heavier due to a larger pack, 2 person tent, and typically carrying 3 L (3 qt) of water plus a liter (quart) of Scotch whiskey.  The latter was shared by 3 people over the 4-day hike just to be clear!

The DayLite Hikers performed wonderfully on this trip.  The Grand Canyon is notorious for causing black toenails and blisters on the descent, as the toes get jammed into the front of the shoe.  The lacing and design of these Xero shoes kept my feet firmly in-place, and I experienced no issues.

I had no problems with "stuff" getting into my shoes on this trip, and my socks stayed reasonably clean, no mean feat considering all the red dust along the trail.

Traction was excellent: I had no issues with slipping on any downslopes.  I had a few minor toe stubs on rocks, and the shoes did a good job of preventing any injuries.

I came to really appreciate the laces and lacing system on this hike.  I found I could lace up the boots in very low light, almost total darkness, without needing a headlamp.  The laces are big and thick enough that I could lace the shoes even with hiking gloves on, which I needed to keep my hands warm in the morning.

The laces require a little extra effort to loosen enough to be able to remove them and put them back on again.  This seems to be due to the tight fit of the laces through the lugs.  They have to be loosened from the top down, so that I was not trying to pull two or more rows of laces through the shoes at a time.

My feet were pretty tired in the evenings, and by the end of the trip they were pretty beat up wearing minimalist shoes on the rocky trail for four days and such a long distance, but after a few days of rest they fully recuperated.

I am starting to see a little separation of the uppers from the soles up front by my toes.  This is pretty typical of trail running and other lightweight shoes.  I may put a little "Shoe Goo" in the gap to make sure it doesn't get any worse.

Summary

Not everyone is ready for minimalist shoes of this type, but my feet are pretty tough and I enjoy wearing them.  I was carrying pretty substantial pack weight on the overnight trips, and I didn't notice any material difference in foot fatigue due to the additional weight.  I do like the good "feel" my feet have for the trail when wearing the DayLite Hikers.

Good Stuff:

  1. Good KSO (Keep Stuff Out) factor with the higher top design.  Had very few issues with stones and gravel getting into the shoes while hiking.  It's nice to not have to wear gaiters as I often need to do with trail running shoes.
  2. Great lacing system - easy to lace up and tighten under low light conditions.  The laces also hold well without double knots.  The lacing system does a great job of keeping my feet from sliding forward on steep descents.
  3. Good durability of the soles so far - they look almost brand new on the bottom.
  4. Wash up well - after the Grand Canyon hike I ran them through the washing machine with the rest of my hiking clothes and they came out looking like new.

Room for improvement:

  1. Could use a higher & wider toe box.  I worked around this by removing the insoles.
  2. Some separation of the upper from the soles by the toes.  Just a cosmetic issue, so far.

Long Term Report

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Altitude
Weather
Feb 1-5, 2018 Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Tonto and Boucher
38 miles
(61 km)
2760-7200 ft
(840-2195 m)
Highs around 70 F (15 C), lows near 32 F (0 C), sunny with light winds

Tonto and Boucher Trails

xd07

This was a "check the box" solo hike of five days and four nights, designed to complete the last of the Grand Canyon trails I had yet to tread.  I descended from the South Rim along the South Kaibab, and cut over along the Tonto trail all the way to Boucher Creek.  From there I ascended on the Boucher and Hermit trails.  I have now completed all the Grand Canyon trails from the Little Colorado confluence to the Boucher Creek area with the exception of New Hance.

The weather cooperated with my plans, I had near perfect conditions with daytime temperatures warm enough to hike in short sleeves, and nighttime temperatures hovering just above or at the freezing point.  The above photo was taken at about 9AM while the sun was still below the canyon walls, so I was a little chilly.  Apparent in the photo: my DayLite Hiker shoelaces were untied - this was something I often did in camp for comfort.

xd08Trail conditions were mixed: the South Kaibab and Tonto trails were in pretty good shape, but the Boucher trail, reputed to be the most difficult and dangerous in the Grand Canyon was overgrown, rocky and incredibly steep.

The photo at left was taken about 1/2 way up my Boucher ascent.  Just below the top of the photo is the canyon I started at earlier in the morning.  The canyon bottom is just below the lip of the ridge, so not truly visible.  At the bottom of the photo is a sample of the "trail", if you can call it that.  The picture does not do justice to the challenges of this trail, as a 2-D picture simply cannot capture the scale of the terrain.

The good news is I did not fall once on the Boucher Trail.  The DayLite hikers functioned passably well under these difficult conditions.  They did extremely well grabbing bare rock, but did not do very well with gravelly sections where they had a tendency to slide due to the lack of aggressive lugs.  I noticed that my socks had copious amounts of Grand Canyon Redwall dust on the outside when I took the shoes off at the end of the day and shook my socks out.  The shoes keep small pebbles out nicely, but allow lots of dust through the breathable uppers.

xd05Before departing on this trip I cut the tips off the insoles - I wanted protection for my heels, but wanted maximum space for my toes (see photo at left).  They were quite easy to cut with kitchen shears.  I cut them right where my forefoot transitions into my toes - that way my foot surface would get the full padding from the insole.

I liked the results - the insoles gave me just a little bit more cushion when stepping on rocks (the Tonto and Boucher have very sharp rocks), and my toes had full freedom of movement.  I had no blisters nor toenail issues during or after the hike.

I began to notice a little bit of fraying on the laces, and on the shoe uppers.  I get why the laces are starting to wear, it is right where the top lug is, and I believe the metal lug is wearing the lace material.

I don't get why I am seeing some fraying of the uppers - they really don't come in contact with anything on the trail.  I have run them through the washing machine after each hike, perhaps they do not hold up very well in the washer.


xd06After my return and running them through the washing machine I took the insoles out and put the shoes in the sun to dry.  I was surprised to see severe wear in the sole fabric - it is literally falling apart.  See photo at right.  For now this is just a cosmetic issue, the sole bottoms show no wear at all, so it's not an issue that my feet are going to pop out of the bottom of the shoes.  I can feel the deteriorated fabric with the soles of my feet if I am wearing thin socks - it is noticeable.  It is possible this wear occurred while I was wearing the shoes with no insoles, the friction of my feet rubbing on the shoe bottom and wearing the fabric.

I have approximately 100 miles (170 km) of wear on these shoes.  I didn't expect to see this much deterioration with them in such a short period of time.

Summary

The Xeroshoe DayLite hikers can be used for extensive backpacking in challenging conditions, providing the hiker has conditioned their feet, ankles and calves to stand up to the challenge.  They feel a little bit like hiking in moccasins.  The soles have proved to grip dry bare rock quite well, but do not do so well when wet.  Due to the lack of aggressive sole lugging, their performance in gravelly conditions is modest.  The laces are wonderful - easy to see and tie, and they stay taut all day long without double knotting.  They have a pretty good KSO (Keep Stuff Out) factor - they can be used without gaiters and remain free from pebbles.  They are permeable against dust, and my socks were very dirty at the end of every day.

The sole bottoms have shown almost no wear.  The laces, uppers and inner soles have started to show wear and tear beyond what I would expect for the use they were subjected to.

I intend to continue to use the DayLite Hikers on backpacking trips and day hikes where the trail is reasonably well maintained and not too rocky.  For instance, on my last Grand Canyon hike they were perfect for the South Kaibab trail, as it is well-maintained.  If I were to do a trail like the Boucher again, I would probably leave them at home and go with more foot protection.


Thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Xero Shoes for the opportunity to test the DayLite Hikers.


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